Biofilm: Why You Should Care That Too Much Of It Is Making You Ill

Biofilm: Why You Should Care That Too Much Of It Is Making You Ill

Biofilm are any group of microorganisms that stick together in a large colony on a surface. Bacteria for example adhere themselves to a surface and other bacteria using tiny hair like appendages called pili. They also form polysaccharide matrices to enclose the bacterial colonies to protect themselves further. Finally, bacteria can either multiply or disperse within a biofilm colony to further infect the host while they are safely protected! 1 2

Opportunistic bacteria form protective biofilms (one of the most common examples of a biofilm is the “film” on your teeth that appears when you do not brush for a while) which can make eradication with antibiotics or by your immune system very difficult. Some bacteria are more prone to form biofilms in the human body including bacteria from the genus Borrelia, C. difficle, S. mutans, Legionella, S. pneumoniae, and S. aureus. 3 4

Infections that are associated with biofilms include: 5

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Catheter Infections
  • Ear Infections
  • Sinus Infections
  • SIBO
  • Endocarditis
  • Oral Infections
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome

Biofilms also form on medical equipment that are used in the treatment of diseases including ventilator tubes, artificial heart valves, joint prosthesis, catheters, IV ports, and even contact lenses which cause infections. 6

Even food products that we eat contain bacteria and thus biofilm. These biofilm producing bacteria make it easier to develop foodborne illness from improperly prepared food! 7

Here is an explanation about the serious of biofilm and the rise of foodbourne illnesses from Hans Blascheck, a microbiologist from the University of Illinois: 8

“If you could see a piece of celery that’s been magnified 10,000 times, you’d know what the scientists fighting foodborne pathogens are up against,” says Blaschek.

“It’s like looking at a moonscape, full of craters and crevices. And many of the pathogens that cause foodborne illness, such as Shigella, E. coli, and Listeria, make sticky, sugary biofilms that get down in these crevices, stick like glue, and hang on like crazy.”

According to Blaschek, the problem faced by produce suppliers can be a triple whammy. “If you’re unlucky enough to be dealing with a pathogen–and the pathogen has the additional attribute of being able to form biofilm and you are dealing with a food product that’s minimally processed, well, you’re triply unlucky,” the scientist said. “You may be able to scrub the organism off the surface, but the cells in these biofilms are very good at aligning themselves in the subsurface areas of produce.”

Make sure you wash and scrub your produce very well before consumption! I do disagree with him on scrubbing however, scrubbing will break up biofilm and break loose enough excessive bacteria in most cases to prevent you from getting ill. I would also recommend using a organic veggie cleaner, the acids will help eat through the biofilms.

Biofilm protects opportunistic bacteria from antibiotic treatment, bactericides, your immune system, and probiotics. To eliminate the opportunistic bacteria you also have to disrupt the biofilm that protects the bacteria and break up the colonies! Elimination of biofilm can be accomplished through using either conventional medicines or supplements; the next part of our series will go in-depth about the agents that are used to disrupt biofilm.

See more from this series:

  1. Black, Jacquelyn. Microbiology: Principles and Explorations, Wiley, May 1, 2012.
  2. Bauman, Robert. Microbiology with Diseases by Body System, Benjamin Cummins, September 12, 2012.
  3. Black, Jacquelyn. Microbiology: Principles and Explorations, Wiley, May 1, 2012.
  4. Bauman, Robert. Microbiology with Diseases by Body System, Benjamin Cummins, September 12, 2012.
  5. Bauman, Robert. Microbiology with Diseases by Body System, Benjamin Cummins, September 12, 2012.
  6. Bauman, Robert. Microbiology with Diseases by Body System, Benjamin Cummins, September 12, 2012.
  7. http://bacteriality.com/2008/05/26/biofilm/
  8. http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/banishing-biofilms-loosening-their-grip-could-make-food-supply-safer
8 Comments
  1. Hi,

    I had toxic shock syndrome (from staphylococcus aureus) in 2008 and developed SIBO about 2-3 years later. Do you think that the staph from toxic shock could have gotten into my digestive tract, resulting in SIBO?

    Thanks!

    • Generally bacteria from the vaginal area would not transfer over to the intestines without a fistula. Antibiotic use to treat the infection could have cause SIBO though by eliminating competition in your gut.

  2. i’ve heard lately that there are good bacteria (SBO’s) on produce that we shouldn’t be trying to wash off.

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